The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) is working on a portable electronic device which could be used to check the passports of ship passengers and make the current system more efficient.
The present clearance-on- board system involves ICA officers physically checking cruise passengers' documents on the ship before they reach Singapore Cruise Centre or Marina Bay Cruise Centre, where passports are then checked electronically.
Tentatively named the Relocatable Clearance System, the machine is in the prototype stage.
If successful, it would be able to wirelessly verify the authenticity and validity of a passport against an electronic database, which can currently be done only at the various land, sea and air checkpoints.
An ICA spokesman said: "We break down immigration clearance into various portions and what we can do on board will speed up the process of certain functions."
The authority is working on ensuring that the device will be able to communicate reliably with its central database, and that encryption of sensitive, personal information will be robust enough to prevent information theft.
The ICA is also looking at extending automated clearance to cruise passengers on ships that dock here overnight or longer. Currently, only residents and pass holders can use the automated system which lets them get on and off the ship, while foreign passengers use manned checkpoints.
The Singapore Tourism Board is trying to grow the market of visitors on "floating hotels" and its director of cruise Annie Chang said: "With our city's plethora of lifestyle and leisure options, visitors can have exciting, multiple-day shore excursions whenever cruise ships dock here."
A handful of luxury liners operated by Celebrity Cruises and Crystal Cruises already stay here overnight. An ICA spokesman said an automated system would let passengers disembark and return to the ship without requiring the checkpoint to be fully staffed.
This article was published on April 7 in The Straits Times.
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